21 June, 2006

Asian Cities are Rude

Via Miyagi, we learn that Asian cities came out at the bottom of the list in global courtesy rankings based on a survey by Reader’s Digest.:

CourtesylionA Reader’s Digest survey conducted in 35 various cities across the globe analysed and tested the politeness and helpfulness of people in each urban centre. More than 2000 separate tests of behaviour were conducted to try and find the world’s most courteous place….
Researchers awarded the cities points for various tests such as holding doors open for other people, assisting in picking up dropped documents and whether shop assistants said “Thank you” to customers after they paid…
Asian cities featured highly on the survey’s least courteous list. Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Bangkok and Seoul were all ranked in the bottom ten. Other unhelpful cities included Sydney, Moscow, Milan and Amsterdam.

The bottom of the list is a who’s-who of great Asian cities including Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Taipei, Singapore, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai. No mainland China or Japanese cities are mentioned in the list.

AsiaPundit is actually shocked by this, in no small part because New York captured the number one position as the most courteous. The Big Apple is a favorite city, but it does not have a reputation for politeness.

AP’s immediate reaction is to disregard the survey as a vacuous marketing gimmick, but he will briefly entertain the possibility that it is an accurate measure.

This article suggests there has been a change in NY since 9/11 and Rudy Giuliani’s politeness bylaws — noting a $50 fine for putting feet on subway seats. It the latter is the case, Singapore’s government should ask why its creation of a Fine City and it’s 37-year long courtesy campaign have been such a failure.

(Image of Singapore’s Courtesy Lion, ubiquitous in the City State, stolen from the Singapore Kindness Movement website.)

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by @ 6:57 pm. Filed under Culture, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines, South Asia

15 Responses to “Asian Cities are Rude”

  1. Lonnie Says:

    I used to have to do business in NYC and was born in a relatively small toen in Colorado.My first few trips were more daunting than touring Canton….

    A runing joke by we “expats” in NYC was: “Can you tell me where to find the Statue of Liberty or should I just fuck myself now”

    I am sure Japan did not make the list ’cause even the natives are too busy trying to figure out where the hell they are going. Reading and following a Japanese map is akin to setting the time on an old VCR: Forever 12:00…

  2. bobby fletcher Says:

    First of all, Switzerland is #2? Most Asians encounter some sort of descrimination there, from stories I’ve heard.

    Second, RD’s “3 tests” seems a little biased. Holding doors? Sogo in Taipei has automatic doors, hello? Papers dropped on dirty streets in Indonesia? Please, they rather you don’t touch their $#!^.

  3. mahathir_fan Says:

    its another one of those stupid little survey that undeserving gets publicity.

    i’ve never had anything stolen away from me in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Yet my first trip to NYC, and my backpack went missing at the train station without me even noticing it until I was about to leave. How rude!

    Moral of the story: Simply because someone appears courteous, does not mean they have good intentions.

  4. Laibcoms Says:

    Umm, Manila, Philippines is ranked #22, with 48% passers. I can’t help but noticed that Manila is often left out of this ranking. I was watching ChannelNewsAsia last night and they mentioned Hong Kong as the #1 most Courteous City in Asia. But regardless, with a title “Asian Cities are Rude”, I’m glad we were not mentioned :p hehe j/k ;)

    Seriously, personally, I’ll take the survey as 60% to 70% accurate, the way they did it (as per their explanations) was that they did some ‘live’ acts/actions, like dropping their books and such, ChannelNewsAsia showed actual footages last night.

    Additionally, with the South-East Asian nations, we’re being rocked by terrorist bombers here, and we know that democracy is really not deeply rooted in our region, it is normal that we ignore people who dropped their books and as such, especially if they are “being obvious” that they dropped whatever they are carrying “intentionally”. Better be safe and get into a mess later. Don’t talk to strangers. Sort of attitude.

    Unlike there in the West, democracy is deeply rooted and so they are more helpful.

    Oh wait, let me also say that another factor why Asians are low in the survey is because they “may” have ‘used’ Westerners as the live testers, let them use fellow (South-)East Asians and we will more likely rank higher. Again it all comes down to avoiding trouble later and don’t talk to strangers - sort of attitude. Simply, better be safe than sorry.

    Besides, we (South-)East Asians are being discriminately ignored, outcasted or are subject to racists reactions when we go to the West than they are when they go to us. We know ourselves, as Asians, that we are not rude.


  5. paul Says:

    Thought you guys might be interested in the following
    post about Anwar Ibrahim;
    Development as Accountability
    Here’s an interesting speech (though not by content) by Malaysia’s former finance minister Anwar Ibrahim;

  6. Marisa Wikramanayake Says:

    I have to say that I found out about the politeness survey via David Letterman’s show and you will be pleased to know that he had the presence of mind to doubt the authencity and accuracy of the survey because as a New Yorker himself, he pointed out that he has no idea what they based it on.

    I have questions about this too - it seems to me that the survey is very very biased or else their indicators of what politeness is are way way off the scale.

  7. john joe Says:

    The survey certainly was’nt biased as they used the same scheme in the 36 cities surveyed.

    There should be no disputing the facts. Its not friendliness nor politeness that is in question here but basic courtesy . Common sense courtesy .

  8. mahathir_fan Says:

    If a Korean is doing this survey, New York will rank bottom because he will complain that nobody bow his head infront of him. What is common sense in some countries are not in some others.

  9. GZ Expat, Part II Says:

    Those rude Asians…

    A recent survey has pointed out that most large Asian cities are rude. Hmmm… I agree with Asiapundit’s observations…AsiaPundit is actually shocked by this, in no small part because New York captured the number one position as the most courteous. T…

  10. Lynn Says:


    NEW YORK is the most courteous city? In which part of New York did they conduct these tests? Are they sure about the results of this survey? It’s kind of funny. That place always struck me as being rather cold and indifferent.

    If they count shop assistants’ behavior as a major test of politeness, I hardly think Manila should fare badly. A large chunk of people here are big on providing eager service with a smile and a cheery “Hello ma’am! Thank you for coming!”

  11. Malaysians Are Rude, ‘Ruder’ and ‘Rudest’ at Internet Marketing Asia Says:

    […] Others may have different views, but here’s what I’ve observed in 26 years dealing with Malaysians (not to be confused with Singaporeans who look alike but are much worse in courtesy): […]

  12. dave kees Says:

    I’m from Michigan but I was in NY for a couple months in ‘99. I was expecting NYers to be rude but was surprised to encounter a lot of politeness. Bus drivers said “Hello” when you get on the bus and many people being helpful.

  13. Nick Says:

    I used to live in Tokyo and now live in Hong Kong. I found Tokyo to be very friendly and I find that Hong Kong is a little more… not rude, but just flat. I think that what westerners might see as rude, they would se as shy.

  14. Nick Says:

    Sorry to post it here in an irrelevant place, but I just can’t figure out how to add my new blog to the Hong Kong list. Can anyone help me out?

  15. FL Says:

    Live in Florida in US, would agree NYCers are courteous. Floridian’s have a runninn joke, all the mean New Yorkers have moved to Florida and live in Miami.

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